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2nd International Conference on Green Energy and Technology, September 2014

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E-waste Management in Bangladesh


Raina Tabassum Karim, Nazhad Bari, M. Ashraful Amin
Computer Vision & Cybernetics Group, Department of Computer Science & Engineering
Independent University, Bangladesh, Bashundhora, Dhaka, Bangladesh
karimraina@gmail.com, barinaz2490@gmail.com, aminmdashraful@gmail.com
Abstract Advancement of ICT makes peoples life easy however,
unknown to them this comes with a silver lining of doom aka ewaste (electronic waste generated from electrical and electronic
equipment). The growing amount of e-waste accumulating from
foreign import and our own domestic sources have become a
major concern of scientific community. When first introduced in
the early 1980s waste generated from computers and mobile
phones were foreign topics due to high price and inaccessibility of
electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). However, sharp rise
in the urban population and the comparative decrease in years of
electronic device lifespan, number of e-waste generated in
Bangladesh has reached a staggering amount. Inappropriate
disposal practices are affecting our health. This paper attempts to
shed light to the growing problem of e-waste management and
the different possibilities that can be applied to a conundrum that
is rapidly turning out to become a national level concern.

Keywords-e-waste; EEE; UEEE; WEEE; ESM

I.

INTRODUCTION

2014 saw a new era of digitalization in Bangladesh. The


arrival of 3G technology and gadgets that support it, at
affordable prices for the masses, have generated a frenzy
amongst people for smartphones and tablets. As the world
progresses with new and advanced technologies, people living
in third world countries are trying to catch up with the current
trend. As the countrys economy grows, the demand for
technology upgrades also increases. This constant demand for
better and improved versions of their former cellphones, and
laptops has made the general public an ideal consumer for the
electronic industry. In this process, cellphones and laptops are
going into obscelence at a faster rate. The electronic market at
large has turned into a game and in their race to find the
winning invention manufacturers forget the destruction left in
its path, namely electronic waste, e-waste or WEEE (waste
from electrical and electronic equipment).
Technology innovation, market penetration and economic
growth of the world have lead to a massive amount of e-waste
production. Research suggests that up to 50 million metric
tons of e-waste is generated in the world per year with most ewaste being produced in Europe, the United States and
Australia [1]. Further studies point to China, Eastern Europe
and Latin America at becoming major e-waste producers in
the next ten years, representing 1-3% of the global municipal
waste production of 1636 million tons per year [2]. In 2009,
there were an estimated 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions
and roughly 1.7 billion internet users. This spurt of growth in
information technology has prompted researchers to conclude

that developing nations will produce twice as much electronic


waste as developed countries within eight years [3].
In early 1980s, 1990s when PCs and mobile phones were
first introduced to the general public of Bangladesh, volume of
e-waste from desktops and laptops were around the figure of
100,309 items. Flash forward to 2000 as the growth rate of
Bangladesh population increases by 27%, so does the disposal
rates, and with it the volume of computer generated e-waste
rises to 399,010 units. As the trend went, in 2010, the volume
of e-waste generated by computers had turned to an alarming
figure of 1,604,368 units. Thus, the total volume of e-waste
generated by computers and mobile phones till 2010 are
2,103,687 and 24,932,160 units respectively [4].
As the laws for e-waste management become stricter and
labor cost becomes expensive, more and more developed
countries such as USA, UK and Japan are exporting
substantial amounts of e-waste to developing countries like
China, India, Bangladesh and etc. Bangladesh imports these
UEEE (Used Electrical and Electronic Equipment) to meet the
demand of secondhand electronic equipment and other
secondary resources. Collected UEEE are then sold to
retailers, assemblers or repairers who dismantle them for parts,
which are later recovered for reuse or recycle while the rest
are disposed. These disposal practices are where the main
concern lies. Extensive research has given proof to the fact
that computers and mobile phones when discarded without
suitable measures cause damage to the lives of people and
their surrounding environment. Bangladesh's lack of laws
related to the safe disposal of e-waste, leave hundreds of
thousands of workers exposed to the toxins released from ewaste on a daily basis.
A. Impact of WEEE the good and the bad
Bangladesh is still in the primitive stages when it comes to
a comparison on handling of WEEE to first world countries.
Incineration, dumping of e-waste in landfills and manual desoldering of circuit boards are common techniques used by
informal recyclers (barterers) to recover metals such as copper
from wires, transformers and capacitors from circuits etc. The
practice is highly inappropriate as burning of such complicated
machinery involves releasing the toxicity of several kinds of
elements into our environment, for example, a single scrapped
personal computer with a CRT monitor of around 25 kg and
consists of metal (43.7%), plastics (23.3%), electronic
components (17.3%) and glass (15%) [6]. It is estimated that a
mere 15% of the total waste generated in Dhaka equal 475
tonnes daily, of which only 20% to 35% is recycled coupled
with approximately 2.2 million tonnes of UEEE imported
annually [4] alarm bells should have started ringing a long

This work is jointly supported by Independent University, Bangladesh


and University Grants Commission of Bangladesh under HEQEP Number:
CP-3359.

978-1-4799-6640-0/$31.00 2014 IEEE

105

In Bangladesh every year more than 15% of child workers


die as a result of e-waste recycling and more than 83% are
exposed by toxics substances and become sick and are forced
to live with long term illness. According to ESDOs recent
study fifty thousand (approx.) children are involved in the
informal collection of e-waste and recycling process in
Bangladesh [4]. In investigations in china on concentrations of
PCBs and PBDEs in the blood of children living near an ewaste recycling plant it is shown that high concentrations of
PCBs was found in their bloodstream [12]. Another study
investigating the levels of PBDEs and PCDD/F in human hair
from workers at an e-waste recycling plant in Eastern China
revealed alarming concentrations of PBDEs ranging from
22.81020 ng/g (three times higher than control area) and
PCDD/F ranging from 1265820 pg/g (18 times higher than
control site) [13].

Some hope for e-waste recycling does come with the fact
that if dealt properly opportunities associated WEEE is vast
especially during a time when natural resources are becoming
extinct. Metals comprise of nearly 60% of all e-waste streams
(UNEP report) some of which such as gold (found in PCs and
mobile phones) and platinum are rather precious so if
collected properly could be an extremely profitable income
source for recyclers and unemployed laborers in Bangladesh
and a big draw for future investment leading to advanced
levels of recycling.
II.

E-WASTE, ITS LIFECYCLE AND TRENDS

Any electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that at one


time entered or eventually will enter a waste stream can be
defined as e-waste. Although a general term, the word e-waste
can span computers, TVs, mobile phones and other products
for example, washing machines, refrigerators, and etc; in other
words almost any item with a circuit and a power supply that
has overcome its purpose is called e-waste.
Every country has their own unique ways of disposing
WEEE in manners that most suit their economic capability and
manpower. Although, there are some steps recurrent in dealing
with e-waste. A generic flow chart of an e-waste lifecycle is
given in figure 1.
Collection

Dismantle

RRR

Disposal

Figure 1. E-Waste life cycle

As of 2012, 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste is


generated throughout the world, report by BAN (Basel action
network). Compared to the total generation of e-waste in 2005
being 9.3 million tonnes, a significant rise can clearly be
observed [1]. Unusual trend patterns like these have made
scientists ponder where the problem lies. Not to look far,
usually a countrys GDP as well as its population can give a
fair assumption at how much e-waste it both consumes and
produces. Figure 2 shows that e-waste generation per capita is
higher in countries with higher GDP per capita [5]. Therefore
developed countries generate more e-waste than developing
countries. Other major grounds that is responsible for the rise
of e-waste is due to technology advancement and upgradation
for which the obsolescence rate of the EEE is increasing
rapidly. This is made easier by the market penetration of new
and upgraded electronic equipment. Today computers and
mobile phones are available everywhere including the rural
areas of Bangladesh.
GDP per capita (in USD)

time ago. As studies on affects of PCB PBDE are nonexistent


for Bangladesh, we look at a research regarding environmental
contamination at e-waste recycling sites in China and India.
The study confirmed the fact that high amounts of lead
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and furans
(PBDD/Fs) were found leached in the groundwater, air and
dust surrounding the sites causing chemical contamination.
This information is particularly not good for an agro based
economy like Bangladesh as leaching depletes quality of
fertile soil [16]. Articles published on the environmental fate
and effects of hazardous substances released from EEE during
recycling and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and
dibenzofurans around Chinese e-waste recycling facilities,
respectively, also found similar results [7, 8]. The study on
adverse impact of e-waste disassembly on surface sediment in
East China investigated the level of PCBs from samples taken
from household, workshops parks [9]. As expected PCBs were
detected ranging from 162990 ng/g dw, crossing the
Canadian freshwater sediment quality guideline of 34 ng/g dw
by 2090 times. An investigation into heavy metals at a
discarded informal recycling site in China revealed
remarkably high metal concentrations going beyond accepted
environmental quality standard for soils in China: lead (13
times), cadmium (50 times), zinc (35 times) and copper (363
times [10]. Tests for cadmium, which can cause brain
disorders, near e-waste recycling sites in China found high
levels of cadmium in urine of workers (0.72 g/l)
Concentrations of lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel in
human placentas in women living near Guiyu in China
revealed that 41.6% women have palladium levels exceeding
compared with 24.4% women at the control site [16]. A
similar study in Sylhet, Bangladesh revealed that 36.3 in a
total of 1000 women living in sites near informal recycling
facilities are facing stillbirth problem in Sylhet [17]. Further
investigation on barterers (informal recyclers), who exchange
their products with e-waste, in Sylhet, revealed that almost
64% suffer from hearing and vision problems, 12% have no
health problems and 24% are unaware of any health hazard
from improper e-waste collection or handling. Of most marked
concern is the high body burden in infants and children
evidence which suggests that PBDEs may be developmental
neurotoxicants and endocrine disruptors [11].

60000
50000
40000
30000
20000
10000
0

e-waste generation per capita (in kg)


Figure 2. Correlation of GDP per capita with the amount of ewaste generated.

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2005

2006

2007

2008

Mobilephone Sales
(in units)

Figure 3(a). Estimated sale of computers.

IV.

200,000,000
150,000,000
100,000,000
50,000,000
0
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Figure 3(b). Estimated sale of mobile phones.

An average PC has a lifespan of around 3-5 years, the


number of sale of PCs has been growing at 11.4% annually.
The e-waste generated from these is approximately 15,323
tonnes at 27.2kg per PC [15]. If the growth rate for mobile
phones is considered to be 100% annually, then in the last 21
years, Bangladesh has generated 10,504 metric tonnes of
toxic e-waste solely in cellphones [4]. Table 1 shows the
quantity of e-waste (weighing in tons) generated from
computers and mobile phones in Bangladesh [14].
Table 1. Estimation of e-waste generated from computers in Bangladesh
Year
2010
2011
2012

Personal Computers
(in tons)
15,323
17,476
17,959

Mobile phones (in


tons)
2,696
5,135
7,702

BANGLADESHS PROSPECT ON E-WASTE

Every year huge amount of e-waste is put in to the market.


The rate of sale of electronic equipments increases with every
year due to affordability and availability. As a result volume
of e-waste generated per year is a dramatic figure. Figure 4
shows the volume of EEE put in to market and the e-waste
generated in the year 2012 around different parts of the world
[5]. It is seen that USA generates the highest amount of ewaste although China puts greater volume of EEE on the
market.
12000
10000
8000
6000
4000
2000
0

EEE put on
market
e-waste
generated
Canada

2004

Switzerland

Germany

200,000

USA

400,000

Thailand

600,000

Malaysia

800,000

B. Lifecycle of e-waste
Bangladesh being a third world country lies claim to one
of the most under developed disposal systems amongst WEEE
generating nations. Research done in different parts of the
nation for example, Dhaka, Sylhet show that there is no such
thing as a formal sector of e-waste collectors rather informal
sectors such as vangari shops and second hand electronic
markets are where most of our WEEE end up. In accordance
to BEMMA reports, 3.2 million tonnes of electronic
equipment are consumed every year of which only 20% to
30% are recycled while the rest gets ditched to landfills, rivers
and open spaces causing the inevitable harm to the
environment [14].

Myanmar

^

There are no computer manufacturers in Bangladesh.


Importers import computers and their parts, and there are
some assemblers who buy used parts to assemble them and
then supply to the market. It is estimated that more than
500,000 computers were sold in the year 2004. The total
number of cellphone active subscribers at the end of :
   million in Bangladesh [5]. Figure 3 (a)
and (b) shows the number of computers and mobile phones
sold from the years 2007 to 2011 [14].

Pakistan

A. Sources and Volume of e-waste


The main sources of computer and mobile phone
generated e-waste in Bangladesh are either from domestic
generation or imported from transboundary shipment from
countries such as UK, USA, China and etc. Although
Bangladesh is a signatory to the Basel Convention
prohibiting trans boundary movements of hazardous wastes
and their disposal, flows of e-waste still find their way to the
country to fulfill the demand of secondhand electronics.

Another major source of computer generated e-waste in


Bangladesh is imported from UK, USA, and many
neighboring countries like China to fulfill the demand of
cheap secondhand equipment and for secondary resources.
Bangladesh does not consider used electronics intended for
direct reuse to be a hazardous waste and so they do not ban
the import of UEEE for reuse. Although inspection of UEEE
is required upon arrival of imported shipment in the country
before the goods can be released from the consignments onto
their final destinations. In USA, it was estimated that in
2002, 50-80% of the e-waste collected were not recycled,
instead they were shipped to China from where significant
volumes of e-waste were imported to Bangladesh. These
UEEE are then sold to retailers, assemblers or repairers who
recover parts that can be reused and the rest are disposed.
Due to this health and environment hazards are also
increasing.

Bangladesh

BANGLADESHS PERSPECTIVE ON E-WASTE

Volume (in metric


kilotonnes)

III.

Figure 4. The volume of e-waste measured in metric kilotonnes, generated


globally in the year 2012.

A. Existing policies
Bangladesh like its contemporaries had always had a
cavalier attitude towards e-waste. Due to discrepancies in data
and the fact that no inventory on amount of e-waste generated

107

there are no specific laws or ordinances for e-waste


management and recycling. Thus accordingly no actions were
taken and the problem was led to simper until it turns into a
full frontal fire.
One of the first policies issued in Bangladesh was in the
year 1992 the National Environment Policy, which highlighted
the regulation of all activities that pollute and destroy the
environment.
The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act of 1995
gives authority to the Director General to undertake any
activity necessary to conserve and enhance the quality of the
environment and to control, prevent and assuage pollution.
The Environment Court Act, 2000 allows the government
to form court at divisional headquarters. According to the
existing law, an individual polluting the environment will be
viable to be jailed for maximum three years or be fined Tk 3
lakh for polluting environment. Repealing this act the Climate
Change Trust Bill 2010 was proposed by the then ruling
government which further amends the law and strict enforces
stricter policies.
The Environmental Conservation Rules of 1997 sets
standards for air, water and sound levels as well as hazardous
emissions from industries. Medical Waste Management Rules
of 2008 incorporates waste management issues of the medical
sector, including e-waste.
The Government of Bangladesh had drafted National 3R
(Reduce Reuse and Recycle) Strategy in which e-waste issues
were addressed. The act was then launched in 2011 under
Ministry of environment and forest. Within the act two new
pilot projects on waste related to 3Rs is to be undertaken in a
number of spots of Dhaka and Chittagong, funded by the
governments climate change fund.
The Hazardous Waste Management Rules are under
preparation and there is still time to incorporate e-waste
management issues for proper management of e-waste. The
Department of Environment is preparing draft Solid Waste
Management rules, which are now in the consultation stage
and there is still time to include e-waste management issues
within those rules.
In April of 1993 Bangladesh became a signatory to the
Basel Convention prohibiting trans-boundary movement of
hazardous waste. Importing of any kind of waste requires
Government permission.
The High Court of Bangladesh has directed the Department
of Environment to ensure that all ship-breaking yards
operating without environmental clearance to shut down their
operations. The court handed down this ruling in March 2009.
In the Hazardous Waste and Ship Breaking Waste
Management Policy 2011 the High Court directed the
government to ensure that no ship with hazardous waste enter
the country without being pre-cleaned at the source or outside
the territory of Bangladesh. The court observed that none of
ministries had co-operated to ensure conformity to these

environmental laws. The order stated the government had to


ensure that ships were only broken after guaranteeing safe
working conditions for the laborers and having in place
appropriate disposal arrangements for hazardous waste and
protection of environment.
All environment protection activities are currently under
the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 2010. DoE
(department of environment) took the initiative to devise a
separate rule on e-waste management under the 2010 act to
deal with the rising volume of electronic waste in Bangladesh,
and set standards for high risk e-waste management. The
proposed electronic waste or e-waste management rules were
halted after the Ministry of Law suggested them to be placed
in a separate act. The proposed e-waste rules divided
electronic wastes into four categories, household appliances
such as electric heaters, vacuum cleaners etc; control
instruments such as air-conditioners, thermostats etc; beverage
dispensers and ATMs; and telecommunication gadgets such as
computers, cell phones, land-phones, fax machines. It also
stipulated the policy to control all business related to e-waste,
including production, export, and recycling.
B. Policy recommendations
In a public awareness survey done by Ahmed 2010
questions asked to respondents on willingness to pay for a
Hazard free e-waste Management fund to ensure safe
management of e-waste in Dhaka [14]. 98% people supported
it and were willing to pay to protect the environment. Mean
wtp value of the respondents was BDT 1.017. This shows that
people are in a space where they are thinking about their
safety from toxic chemicals before monetary issues. This is a
sign that Bangladesh is ready invest in recycling plants on a
larger scale.
In 2011 Bangladesh started the national 3R strategy which
encompasses all waste management the 3R strategy can adapt
solutions similar to center of information and communication
technology of La Paz Bolivia where e-waste tool kits for users
of computers are distributed through media and workshops.
Goldnscrap.com a website where dismantling PCs for precious
metal, can be referenced by the workshops to their attendants.
The 3R strategy can also follow the footsteps of the South
African 4R strategy and offers job opportunities within their
framework [18]. There are no official reports on the success or
failure of the 3R strategy and its implementation from the year
2011, or any information on the factors deadlines or goals of
the project are met.
Grameenphone, Robi such telecommunication giant can
start collaborations with Nokia or Samsung to start old mobile
collection drive. These drives were first initiated by Nokia and
conducted in many other developing countries such as
Malaysia, etc [18].
The cell phone sector in Colombia has signed an agreement
with the government entitled Coordination Agreement for
Environmentally Sound Management of Wastes from the
Mobile Telephone and Trunking Services Subsector within the
Framework of Product Life-Cycle for take-back of discarded
cell phone batteries in 2007. The telecommunication sector

108

Teletalk could sign agreements with recycling centers or


informal sectors or within the new e-waste act licensed by
ministry of environment similar to this [18].
As of 1993 Bangladesh is a signatory of the Basel
convention making it liable to all the rules of the treaty against
transboundary shipment of hazardous waste. The question
then becomes what the Bangladesh government signifies as
hazardous e-waste which conveniently does not include
second hand electronic equipment UEEE. Similar problems
when faced by Thailand made them officiate new rules that
made used EEE importation legal only if it is manufactured
less than five years prior to shipment while the other
electronics should be less than three years old [18].
Consumer tax on informal and other distributors of e-waste
need to be applied. If people have the money to pay for their
appliances they should have to shoulder the responsibility of
their proper disposal as well.
Computer aid an NGO based in the UK uses the idea of
donating old PCs to better the lives of underprivileged
students. This idea can be incorporated by our government
through Chinas Home appliance rebate program where the
consumer turns in an old appliance to an official collector in
our case this could be old PCs, mobile phones and laptops.
The collector will pick it up, pay the consumer for the
remaining value of the e-waste and issue the consumer a
voucher. By redeeming the voucher in an eligible retail store,
the consumer buys a new appliance at a 10 per cent discount.
The government will reimburse retailers for the 10 per cent
discount they give to consumers. The collector will then ship
the collected e-waste to an official recycler. The recycler will
pay the collector for the value of the e-waste, based on the
market value and negotiated price. The collector will receive a
logistics allowance from the government based on the amount
and type of e-waste collected and transport distance. Recyclers
will receive a treatment bursary from the government, based
on the type of e-waste treated. Although a large amount of
investment is needed from the government this program was
declared officially successful in China. Bangladesh
government needs to start a trend of formal sector recycling
making it mandatory for recyclers to practice e-waste
recycling without license and registration the profit from this
program is a good incentive for small business owners in the
informal sector to join formal recycling. This step will also
achieve the importance of inventory generation as the licensed
recyclers would have to give an annual report on how much ewaste they are buying and how much of it is put to reuse,
recycle and disposed [19].
India had its only policy on e-waste set by its ministry of
environment in May 2010 but the law was as recently passed
as the year 2012. A section in the law specifies that all
companies with turnovers of 100 million or above need to
manage their own e-waste and its recycling as Bangladesh
lacks formal recyclers but has a large RMG (readymade
garments) sector where computers and other heavy EEE are
used [20].
Srilanka recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding
with the Basel Convention to implement a project on

Development of National Implementation Plan for Electrical


& Electronic waste in Sri Lanka The project comprises of six
phases: preparation of an inventory of selected electronic and
electrical products; training and awareness raising; and
implementation of three pilot projects in three provinces based
on the outcome of the field survey. The first component of the
project is now completed it broadly covered a desktop study
and field surveys to prepare inventories of selected products
(computers, printers, televisions, mobile phone, refrigerators,
washing machines). The first phase of the project established
a coordination mechanism by creation of a Project Control
Unit (PCU) which prepared a detailed inventory for selected
products, conducted field surveys, raised awareness through
workshops. The study highlighted the need to develop a
regulatory framework to facilitate an effective e-waste
management system with an understanding of global
regulations, such as the WEEE RoHS Directives, and
extended producer responsibility schemes. Bangladesh could
apply to the Basel convention to start a project similar to this
in order understand the current e-waste situation as reliable
information is severely lacking without which newer plan of
actions cannot be devised [18].
V.

CONCLUSION

E-waste in Bangladesh has now reached a peak of 2.8


million per year [4]. The ever increasing illegal import of ewaste in the name of UEEE most which are rarely tested
resulting in 25-75% of it being irreparable trash makes this
figure to become a small estimate as no documented list of ewaste generated is available. Most informal recyclers are
unaware of the health hazards or risk that they undergo at a
daily basis. When asked they are nonchalant in their answers
although studies clearly show that hazardous nature of e-waste
is already affecting birth rates in areas that are most exposed.
Unlike Polio vaccination campaigns that were successfully
executed by the government in the past e-waste is a subtle
killer results of its destruction will be visible in the next 20 or
so years thus government needs to follow steps taken by other
countries as shown in the policy recommendation section.
Extensive workshops and knowledge on the subject is vital if
it is to be handled thus pilot projects under StEP UNEP are
proposed as proper funds and investment is in need to finance
recycling facilities but without accurate ground work works
shops and market surveys this is impossible. Despite the fact
that Bangladesh is a signatory of the Basel convention in
transboundary movement of e-waste towards our shore is
increasing annually regardless of the fact that it is harming our
environment and we have close to none standard recycling
facilities to dispose of such quantities of waste. Thus polices
similar to the (RoHS) Directive by the EU, should be adapted
where substances of immediate concern: lead, mercury,
cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PCB and PBDE are banned
from being used in making of EEE as of July, 2006. The
situation is now similar to a volcano that has been dormant for
too long if an escape plan is not set then Bangladesh might as
well be prepared for an e-waste size eruption.

109

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